Future leaders in Barrow County are connecting with the community and each other through a new youth leadership program designed by the University of Georgia.

Youth Leadership Barrow graduated its inaugural class of 16 participants in April, representing each of Barrow County’s four high schools – Winder-Barrow High School, Apalachee High School, Bethlehem Christian Academy and the Barrow Arts and Sciences Academy.

The UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development worked with the Wimberly Center for Community Development and the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce to develop the program.

“As a group of community leaders we set out to bring a Youth Leadership program to Barrow County that would invite students to discover their potential,” said Angela Bradley Haun, Georgia Power local manager and Youth Leadership Barrow planning committee member. “This program is important to Barrow County not only for the future of our students, but also for the development of a workforce that our businesses and industries depend upon.”

Fanning Institute faculty developed the program using the institute’s Youth Leadership in Action curriculum, which communities and organizations can utilize with youth from kindergarten through high school.

“Through the curriculum, students learn how to look at their own strengths, identify areas of improvement and set goals for themselves,” said Brittany Adams-Pope, Fanning Institute public service faculty member. “They also learn communication and decision-making skills and how to apply those as a leader with their peers in school and in their communities.”

Along with the leadership curriculum, the program also connected students to local issues such as food insecurity and agriculture in Barrow County through the Wimberly Center’s work in that arena.

“Beyond cultivating leadership skills and awareness, Youth Leadership Barrow works to expose students to many aspects of their community in an effort to reveal their career and service potential that they can put to use in Barrow County now and in the future,” Haun said.

Layken Shawl, a junior at Apalachee High School, has enjoyed the opportunity to build new relationships through Youth Leadership Barrow and use the skills she has learned through the program in school.

“The program has taught me how to more actively listen to others and be open to new ideas,” Shawl said. “I also have enjoyed getting to know and connect with students from the other high schools in the county.”

In addition, the institute provided training for Barrow County community leaders to facilitate the curriculum for the program moving forward.

“The opportunity to partner with the Fanning Institute and utilize the Youth Leadership in Action curriculum has provided us with a set-up with which we feel fully equipped to continue providing students with an elite leadership curriculum at each session of Youth Leadership Barrow in future years,” Haun said.

Support for Youth Leadership Barrow was provided through the Fanning Institute’s Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative. Through this initiative, the institute provides resources and technical support to communities and organizations in Georgia seeking to enhance their leadership development efforts.

The initiative provides communities like Barrow County an opportunity to invest in their economic and civic future, said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute.

“Youth leadership programs help young people learn how to lead and work with others and connect them to their communities at the same time,” Bishop said. “This sets both the youth who participate and their communities up for success.”

Since 2020, the institute has partnered with 15 organizations across Georgia through the Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative. Click here for more information on the initiative.

Meanwhile, for more information on starting a youth leadership program in your community, click here.